Strategic Land Group has called for a more realistic approach to green belt development, publishing a research paper that states brownfield development can meet less than a third of the region’s required housing.
Brownfield sites in the North West have capacity for 150,000 homes, said the report, but even that isn’t being reached. A total of 97,163 new homes are being planned for green belt sites in recently adopted or emerging Local Plans, representing 21% of the 463,490 new homes that are being planned across the region as a whole.
SLG said that council brownfield land registers confirm that none of the region’s local authorities possess sufficient brownfield land to deliver the housing they need – only in St Helens does brownfield land meet more than 50% of housing need.
According to the research, six councils in the North West have more than half their boroughs designated as green belt. In West Lancashire 99% of the borough is designated Green Belt.
The region as a whole is green belt-heavy, with 34% of land designated, compared to the national average of 13%.
Paul Smith, managing director of SLG, said: “It’s apparent that the North West is heavily constrained by the green belt. At the same time, the amount of brownfield land that is available for development is modest. That is in part due to the success councils have had in redeveloping brownfield sites over the last 20 years.
“The mention of green belt usually evokes images of rolling hills, lush greenery and open space, but in reality much of it consists of previously developed land, poor quality grassland and roadside verges.
“Unfortunately, those misconceptions continue to prevent sensible conversation – there are 73,365 acres more Green Belt today than in 1997. Although some green belt has been lost in recent years, at current rates it would take almost 3,000 years for all the green belt to be developed.”
Of those councils that are proposing development in the green belt, the figures range from just 2.5% of the housing requirement in Wyre, through to 79% of the housing requirement in Wirral, an authority where all greenfield sites are designated green belt.
SLG said that ten authorities are still proposing no green belt housing at all, while just eight councils are planning to deliver more homes in the green belt than on brownfield sites.
Smith concluded: “If the North West is to stand a chance of meeting its housing targets to support population growth, there needs to be more dialogue around the sensible use of green belt to deliver new homes”.
The full report can be accessed here.
Land promoter SLG last month acquired three sites for housing, the largest of them in Pole Lane Bury, which has the potential to deliver 275 homes.